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tv   Deadline White House  MSNBC  May 19, 2017 1:00pm-2:01pm PDT

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report, they said there is no collusion between anybody in the trump administration and russia. this story has changed our entire discussion for today. that is it for me. i am signing off now. and "deadline white house" with nicolle wallace begins right now. hi, everyone. it's 4:00. we come on the air with two new blockbuster reports. president trump is less than two hours into his flight to saudi arabia aboard air force one and he's headlines are sure to dog him at 50,000 feet. the first, the "washington post" is reporting that a current white house official is a significant person of interest in that investigation into coordination between russia and trump's campaign. also breaking, "the new york times" reporting that president trump told russian officials in that oval office meeting that firing jim comey had relieved great pressure on him. he also called comey crazy and a real nut job. we're going to start with reporters covering all of this today.
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joining us, nbc's hans nick comes at the white house and "the new york times'" michael schmidt breaking news every single day on the comey front also joins us. hi, guys. hans, first, i'm flabbergasted, amazing i can be flabbergasted by sean spicer's response to the stories. tell us about them. >> reporter: the first response to "the new york times" story that broke shortly before 3:00, they essentially, they didn't dispute this story and here's what they said. they almost try to make this seem as part of the syria policy. it's quite a long quote, but i'm going to read to you, "the president has always emphasized the importance of making deals with russia as it relates to syria, ukraine, defeating isis and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the american people. by grandstanding and politicizing the investigations into russia's actions, james comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with russia. the investigation would always have continued and obviously the termination of comey would not have ended it. once again, the real story is that our national security has
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been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations. nicolle, that's the response. you didn't hear denial to "the new york times'" story which is president trump called jim comey a nut job and said that he thought by dismissing him, as he did the previous day, that the russia investigation would no longer be a problem. that was a little bit of political analysis by president trump that wasn't quite accurate. let me jump quickly to the "washington post" story as well and what the white house is saying about this. here their denial isn't as firm. what the "post" is alleging and reporting is there's a senior white house official that's a person of interest. not necessarily under investigation. that's a distinction we should keep in mind. as the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity." nicolle, i should throw this back to you. you sat in the west wing. you've been in the oval in
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crisis situations. you guys have a lot better sense of how you'd handle this. it's been a remarkable day so far. the white house isn't firmly denying either of these stories. >> hans, you'll appreciate something i said before we came on the air. air force one is a massive plane. it's a spectacular aircraft. when you're a white house in crisis and you've been on that plane with me, when i worked at a white house, not in these kinds of crises but in crises nonetheless, it becomes very, very small. and this is a very long flight. i can't imagine what it's like onboard. michael schmidt, to you, how do you think jim comey -- you're obviously very well sourced in comey land -- how do you think he's going to respond to being called crazy and a nut job? >> well, i'm not sure how comey would respond to that. he would probably laugh, my guess, at this point. this has really been one of donald trump's sort of explanations or attack lines on comey is to paint him as someone that was really crazy and was really out of touch and not liked by folks at the fbi. the white house has pointed it out that a lot of fbi folks were
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happy that comey was gone. our reporting really doesn't reflect that. comey was, despite the fact that some people questioned his judgment on the clinton investigation, and he had some issues with the justice department, inside the fbi, the rank and file really liked comey and they took a lot of pride in him and certainly his willingness to put himself out there. so, my guess is that wherever comey is, he's probably laughing at this and is maybe happy that he doesn't have to deal with this on a day-to-day basis as the fbi director anymore. >> promise me if he calls your phone while you're on the air you'll take it. i want to know, though, from your sort of comey whisperers if you think that, you know, they've got the deputy attorney general who testified under oath that that was absolutely not the case, that the picture that the white house painted, sarah huckabee sanders saying she'd heard from countless fbi agents who were happy he was gone and donald trump calling him a nut job and crazy. i mean, you've got mccabe under oath who testified to what you're describing, that while he
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ended up in the headlines maybe more than some rank and file agents were comfortable with, he was if not revered widely and universally respected as a pro's pro. >> no, i -- you know, we spend a fair amount of time talking to folks at the fbi and we actually did a big story on comey a month ago that looked at how he handled the e-mail. the e-mail issue. and, indeed, there are people close to comey, there are people that used to work at the bureau, people that are still there that said on the e-mail thing he leaned in too far, he shouldn't have held a press conference perhaps in october. there were other wayses he could have handled it. he maybe could have briefed it up to the hill instead of sending a letter up there that could have been classified. so there certainly are questions about what he did, but many people there didn't question his integrity and they thought that he had the fbi, you know, which is not just an agency that deals with russia, deals with counterterrorism, it deals with white-collar crime, violent crime, that he had the agency headed in the right direction and something that really
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bothered the rank and file was how comey was dismissed. he was in los angeles at a field office speaking to some personnel when he looks up on the television and sees on the breaking news head looicline th had been fired. he thought at the time that was a prank but actually that's how he found out his job had come to an end. >> hans, let me bring you back in. on the breaking news today, what about the fact that trump basically, and sean spicer's comments just, yeah, i did it, i did it, i did it for russia. i mean, are we going to all have to learn the words to the russian anthem? haunt the fact that their biggest political problem is his affinity for all things russia? and their defense to "the new york times'" story is, yeah, we want a better relationship with russia. does that make any sense? >> reporter: if you're looking to build a case russia was behind the election, collusion, donald trump would have helped you build your case, revealing sensitive and code word
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information to the russians on isis and reasons and motives potentially for dismissing james comey. if he says to them it had to do with the russia investigation, and there's a transcript of this. i think one other -- that could get into his intent which is why did he let go of jim comey? and if there's an investigation into obstruction of justice, and did he try to pressure jim comey into dropping the investigation, this might be admissible. i think one other point that we should make here, too, one is that in some ways, though, he has a defense and that is he fired jim comey, director comey, because he thought he was a nut job. that can be his defense, not just because it was about russia. so he has -- he had this double-bashled double double-barreled explanation there. finally, let's remember, we're going to hear from jim comey, accused nut job, he has a public hearing coming up. i think that's going to be must-see tv. i hope you're hosting. i think that's going to be very interesting because comey's taken a couple of batteringin fm the president in private and now
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this was made public. comey is going to have an opportunity to respond. i don't now how charitable james comey is going to feel to president trump. >> let me end with you, michael schmidt, on this breaking news. how you think -- you cover law enforcement. how does this clear almost basking in the intent of having a better relationship with russia, how is that going to play with those on the -- inside the investigation into russian collusion? >> well, my guess is these folks know the pressure that they're under and they're just trying to keep their heads down and move forward, but what is probably funny to them is the fact that trump is saying, look, this alleviated a lot of pressure on me -- >> getting rid of your boss alleviated pressure on me. i mean, who says that? in a -- >> but the funny thing is is that here we are a week and a laugh la half later and has a special counsel appointed to investigate him. i think he's probably in a worse place today than he was when he first made those statements to the russians in the oval office. >> we're losing hans because he has different stories to cover.
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probably not different ones but for different broadcasts. i'm going to bring in democratic congressman joseph crowley of new york who joins me. what do you make of the two big bombshell reports? first, i guess, significant white house official who's a significant person of interest in the investigation into collusion with russia. >> well, it's so hard to figure out just who that individual may be. >> do you have any theories? >> sorry? >> do you have any theories? >> we are definitely in the twilight zone right now, nicolle. no doubt in my mind that more and more bizarre behavior, more and more bizarre statements coming from the oval office. that meetings in itself was highly unusual. just the way, the fact that no american press in that oval office, all coming from "tass", one thing after the other. i think saying to -- i think if it was the british ambassador or french ambassador or foreign minister or the israeli
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ambassad ambassador, our closest allies that our president should be saying those things yet alone to russia. >> i had the same thought. i thought imagine if george bush had said to tony blair, one of his closest allies, you know, i got rid of my fbi director so now there's less pressure on our relationship. it just -- there's no diplomatic explanation, there's no legal explanation and i wonder what you make of the political fallout. what do you think's going to happen when everyone's back? do you think republicans are starting to get a little weary of defending this white house? >> i do think that they got a little bit of a reprieve when the justice department announced the special counsel, special prosecutor, that the hope was they would get, you know, down to the facts very quickly. and now with this new statement, it just seems that there's even more -- more there, there, in terms of what may very well end up leading to a constitutional crisis. you know, we hope for the american people that's not the case, but it just seems more and more that we have to look at what's been said and, you know,
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put these pieces of the puzzle together. it doesn't sound good for this white house. >> did you hear anything that sounded good for the administration in the briefing with deputy attorney general rosenstein today? >> what i did hear that i thought was good overall for the american people was that rosenstein does believe that an attack took place against the united states by russia, and that it's incumbent upon democrats and republicans, alike, to really be concerned about what that attempt was, what they accomplished, what they tried to do, what they accomplished, what they want to do in the future and what can we do to prevent that from happening? that got an incredible round after applause from democrats, republicans, but i think the thing that still is disturbing is, you know, in terms of the firing of comey, when that memo was put together, was it asked to be put together by the president or was this something that, you know, mr. rosenstein just came up with on his own fruition? >> did you get an answer to that question? >> we did not. he said that's up to mr. mueller in that's part of his
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investigation to delve into. >> how do you feel about former senator joe lieberman as the next fbi director? >> i like joe very much. joe's a friend and a former colleague. i think the world of him, but i do think that we need here is someone who's not political, someone who comes from the criminal justice background, from justice, maybe from the ranks of the fbi, itself. we need someone who's nonpartisan in that position. >> so i put you down as a no? >> put me down as someone who believes that we need a nonpartisan in that position, someone who hasn't ran for public office, despite my affection for joe. >> all right. thank you so much. thank you for being with us. i hope you'll come back. >> thank you. at the table, mark mckinnon, co-executive producer of show time's "the circus." jen pal mamari. and maria, anchor and executive producer of npr's "latino usa." so, jen, maybe she had a point. hillary. >> maybe she was paranoid they really were out to get her. >> though, seriously.
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>> it is -- >> rewind the tape. she stood before the country and i think jeb bush put out a statement in the last hour basically saying i told you so. i mean, how -- maybe hillary and jeb should meet at bar tonight. >> i think they would have a great time, wouldn't they? >> seriously, this was the case you laid out that he was not presidential material. >> not only that he wasn't presidential material, but there was something very odd about his relationship with russia and his continued affection for vladimir putin, by the way, his continued affection for michael flynn and he continues to say great things about michael flynn. we have to stop looking for complicated answers for what trump is doing. . giving russia classified information and firing comey because he thinks they're hurting russia because he's trying to help them. >> you're nodding. >> i'm just thinking, nicolle, what it's like as a new administration, working in the white house, under the best of
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circumstances then place somebody in the white house who's never been in political office before with an investigation clouding your head. i remember paul begala said to me, web i when i was considering into the white house, he said if you do, get yourself a lawyer -- >> third piece of advise, don't keep a diary, don't take notes. now that i got mom brain, i wish i remembered mrd. >> beyond the specifics of what's breaking, imagine for the country the direction of this white house. how do you work there? how do you -- >> how do you work there knowing one of your colleagues is a significant person of interest in an investigation -- >> imagine -- >> they have no idea who that person is. >> actually, how do you work there when if it's true, we haven't -- i mean, i have not confirmed this reporting in terms of what was said about the dismissal of comey that he was crazy -- >> and a nut job. >> a nut job. so this is somebody who the entire world we saw how donald trump embraced him. literally embraced jim comey. put his arm around him and
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kissed him. >> air kiss. >> this is somebody who now quickly later is just dismisses him and you're working for donald trump? i mean, if i was there, i'd be saying, oh, my god, when is it going to be my turn to be dismissed and just loony crazy, therefore, gone? >> mike, you worked for three republicans i can think of. george w. bush, john mccain and chris christie who all had epic crises of their own. you were in the middle of all of them. what is happening inside this white house right now? they're aboard air force one. benefit of perfect telecommunications although they have a lot, they have cable tv up there. how do you think they're managing the response? which story do you think is more perilous for them? >> i think the person of interest story is not surprising. i mean, there's an investigation going on. it's been going on to the campaign, people from the campaign moving to the white house. i don't think is surprising. it doesn't make it any easier. >> it happens, though. obviously you dealt with the bridge-gate -- does everyone get their lawyer, does everyone clam up, does everyone become -- what happens?
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>> some people who have been through it before do and probably should. there's an element of trying to get to the bottom of it. >> from inside. >> from inside tries to understand what happens, what do we know, what don't we know? with that, especially when there's a story about a person of interest, you do start to worry about the person next to you and worry about who in t is start to smt. that breaks down communication. you start to worry about who you're talking to, am i going to put myself in any jeopardy even though i might have the best intentions in terms of trying to help out and get to the bottom of this? people clam up and that makes it worse. >> the closest i lived through this was the valerie plame investigation. mark and i worked on the cap pa campaign where we didn't have security clearances. we weren't closely involved. it does have the effect mike describes. i wonder what you think about this white house team's ability. obviously there's some professionals then sort of the keepers of the trump campaign flame. i wonder what you think the dynamic is right now. >> it is really hard because i worked during alde arr and
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president clinton. i saw when the lewinsky news broke, people did not want to talk to bill clinton. i was a scheduler so it was me. the other scheduler. the chief of staff. the national security adviser. because if you talked to bill clinton, you were a subpoena magnet. and it -- and i think there's probably people who are not politically savvy in there who think we need to understand everything that's happening. it can't just be operated in the da dark. what they're about to find out is knowing who the people are under investigation or talking to the fbi is more dangerous than not knowing. >> we got michael schmidt who covers law enforcement. michael schmidt, what do we know about what happens when -- i keep reading in all of your paper's reporting and others, we might be at the phase where subpoenas start to go out. what does that mean, who might get them and what happens? >> that means that the justice department is using grand juries, a very powerful tool, to get information and testimony that basically compelling people to talk. it can be very, very powerful and it really helps them get to the bottom of things that people
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don't voluntarily want to talk about. it can also create sort of a parade, sort of a problem, because you have different people coming in and leaving the grand jury and that will create stories and stuff like that. it shows that the investigation has progressed to a point it's not just a bunch of intelligence sitting around that the investigators are actually trying to build some sort of case. >> and what of that, mark mckinnon? we watched a lot of -- you watched a lot of campaigns, a lot of white houses. you have one of the best shows on television because of the extraordinary nature of this white house. how do you think they could deal with more pressure -- >> i'm just flashing back to when i was under fbi investigation for the 2000 campaign for the tape-gate thing where somebody sent a tape to the gore campaign and i was the target of an investigation and there is nothing like being sweated by the fbi. i want to tell you. if you can carry on the everyday work of the white house while under investigation by the fbi, good luck with that. >> right. right. >> i'm sitting here like, that -- >> you're at a table with three people -- >> i am so glad --
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>> i can see your thought bubble above your head. >> you're in a rugs gallery here, baby. >> the sense of, like, being there, i mean, for me, there's a sense of, you know, i mean, i grew up watching the fbi. remember that? does anybody rib thaanybody tha? >> sure. >> the show on sunday nights was so risque, so out there, you know, my parents didn't let me watch it and to think now that deep throat, we understand number two at the fbi, why did deep throat during the watergate crisis come out? because there was a feeling that the fbi felt like they were being mistreated by richard nixon. so, i mean, no one messes with the fbi. >> go ahead. >> the other thing that got my attention today, nicolle, is how specific the administration is being about collusion on russia and the campaign. you know when you get this kind of investigation, the net goes so wide and there's -- you know, valerie plame, look at all these other things. that was never the initial idea
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of the investigation. >> it's interesting, i want to ask you, the mueller mission is very broadly written. >> yeah. that's what people don't understand. it is not about the campaign and what happened in the campaign. it is about what happened in the campaign, if there was collusion with russia. it's about the firing of comey then it has claws that gives them an opening to investigate anything that they encounter. consider this. bill clinton didn't even meet monica lewinsky until a year and a half after ken starr became the independent counsel. >> wow. >> yes. okay? basically -- >> a lot of investigations end up like that. scooter libby -- >> no one want s to do an investigation, nothing there, couldn't find a thing after a few years and all that money. >> it's like trying to run the white house, we now know how difficult that is, while there is a -- while the fbi is just running a parallel track observing everything you do. >> not just the fbi but the senate, intel -- senate investigation, a house
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investigation. >> with prosecutorial powers, and the president will probably be interviewed by mueller and if he lieses to mueller, chance of that seems pretty high, then he can be prosecuted for lying to the fbi. this -- they don't have any concept i think about how serious this is. >> you asked before about people not wanting to talk about president clinton. you think about the things that president trump and the administration want to do in terms of infrastructure or health care reform or tax reform. right now people don't want to talk to each other. members of congress raaren't gog to talk to anybody. these are real people who work there, have good intentions -- >> family. >> -- want to affect public policy. this is very scary. you don't know who to turn to. the day to day is going to grind to a halt. it's hard to focus on tax reform today. you learn a lot about this through the newspapers, too, which is difficult. >> right. that's what i was about to say. a lot of people turn to the press. all right. much more on the breaking news we've been following. more bombshell reporting connected to the russia investigation when we return. still ahead, comey strikes back. the latest reporting on the
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and add phone and tv for only $34.90 more a month. call today. comcast business. built for business. we are covering two big friday afternoon bombshells. one, "the new york times" reporting that trump told russians that firing nut job flynn eased pressure from investigations. the second from the "washington post" headline reads, "russia probe reaches current white house official. people familiar with the case say." we're bringing in ari melber to break down the legal ramifications of the two stories. let me start with the second. who could the senior white house official be? i'm told almost the entire white house staff is on this trip for an interesting reason, they feel like it's less likely they'd get fired if they were all in the bubble. that's what you call it when you're accompanying the president on a trip. do you think that they know or do you think that someone back
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in the counsel's office knows? >> the person who would be most likely to know would be white house counsel don mcgahn. if we take the example of michael flynn, don mcgahn was the first person formally notified, now famously, by then-acting attorney general sally yates and don mcgahn has a dual role. he's not the attorney general, right, he is not representing the interests of the united states writ large, he's representing the interests of the president and presidential issues, executive power, itself, on behalf of the white house. don mcgahn might now. the person may have a hint, particularly if the person has done anything that could be called into question. person of interest is a big deal but it's not the same as target. it is basically a casual term, it's not a formal term defined by statute. it's a casual term that means investigators are looking at someone because they know things in an investigation or could ultimately potentially be charged with a crime, nicolle. >> ari, do targets and subjects of investigations sometimes start as people of interest? >> yes. good question. the answer being yes because -- >> i watched "l.a. law."
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>> you have. exactly. look, you have witnesses, you have subjects and you have targets. right? and witness is like anyone, you could be a completely innocent witness, you work in the government and bad things are happening potentially. right? that's why the president's activities and words up to this point are so problematic. he seems to think if he's not under his own personal investigation which is his claim, of course, that somehow then everything's all cool. that's not how it works at all. he should care a great deal. any citizen in theory should care but especially a government official who takes the oath to uphold the constitution should care they might be a witness to crimes, et cetera. and so you start out, you have witness, subject, meaning there's some sort of real higher level interest you may have done something wrong or have really vital information about potential criminal conduct. then finally, nicolle, target, united states law enforcement agencies in some way are looking at you as a potential person, to go "l.a. law" or "law and order," what we think of as a suspect. a suspect has not been charged.
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as a legal correspondent, even when charged people are innocent until proven guilty. i have to flag this language that the white house is not disputing, nicolle, i mean, we've had friday afternoon stories of all kinds and flavors. here's one the white house through sean spicer is not disputing as of 4:27 p.m. on the east coast, reads from "the new york times" "according to american officials the president said, quote i face great pressure because of russia. that's taken care of." that is the president basically drawing a line from himself to the termination of jim comey to the russia inquiry in as direct a way as we've heard. the fact that the white house is not disputing it right now is, itself, galling. >> and i want to get you -- don't go anywhere because i want to understand the legal implications of that. i was struck by spicer's comment as well but we got mike viqueira on the hill with reaction to these two breaking stories. hi, mike. >> nicolle, we have reaction from speaker ryan's spokesperson ashley strong first on "the new york times" story. don't get too excited because there's not much here. ashley strong says, "house
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oversight committee has requested documents from the fbi related to mr. comey's dismissal." a reference, of course, to the investigation being run by jason chaffetz, the republican from utah, and elijah cummings on the democratic side in the house oversight committee. where those investigations are going incidentally, nicolle, as you know, since the appointment of bob mueller still very much up in the air. on the "washington post" story, on the person of interest that you and ari were just talking about, here's what ashley strong has to say. "the speaker cannot and will not discuss what is said in classified briefings. as it relates to ongoing investigations, the speaker has said many times that we must allow the career professionals at the justice department to do their jobs thoroughly and independently before passing judgment" and of course we did see rod rosenstein yesterday down in the basement here -- sorry, here yesterday and today, yesterday briefing all senators. today, briefing all house members. he did get a grilling from many democrats on his role, of
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course, in the firing of jim comey. that was just this morning. classified briefing for all house members, nicolle. >> mike, you know what i thought when "the new york times" piece ran about trump celebrating that he had no pressure was that recording that was unearthed earlier in the week of kevin mccarthy saying that he thought for sure, for sure, putin was paying president trump during the campaign. does that sort of -- does that story have a little more life in light of this new report today? >> reporter: you know, so interesting you say that because, you know, when that story hit, everybody was sort of taken aback but it really hasn't had legs principally because it hasn't appeared elsewhere, but kevin mccarthy who was quoted on that tape recording according to the "washington post" as saying essentially president trump and congressman dana rohrabacher were on the take by russia, they were able to say that it was a joke, a bad joke and sort of impugn the source, still mysterious, of that article.
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paul ryan, of course, speaker of the house, largely saying the same thing and echoing those comments. you know, whether or not this gives new life to it, i don't know. i still think it is even given everything that's happened over the course of the last three weeks or three months or four months since the inauguration, it's still going to -- it's such an outrageous claim and such a semiplausible explanation from mccarthy and ryan that i think the people are still kind of staying away from that, to be honest with you, nicolle. >> mike, thank you so much. jen palmie ari, not outrageous those on the clinton campaign, who thought the ties -- i remember after the commander in chief forum, there were serious questions about the kinds of answers donald trump gave and just about the depths of his anext for putin. he defended him for killing journalists. key ge defended him for being strong. defended him for being -- you were jumping up and down with your hair on fire. >> they took the language out of
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the platform that expressed concern about crimea and ukraine. this is -- it's the one consistency about donald trump and i think that people continue to look for something more complicated than as, you know, as mike morrell, who was acting ci ark dire cia director, said in an op-ped in "the new york times" in august, he was so direct, he said he has been recruited by the russians and he has become an unwhiting agent of the russian federation and what he told me was the only qualms he had in writing that sentence was whether or not he should use the word, unwitting. you know, dana rohrabacher who kevin mccarthy also said was told by the fbi he was being targeted by the russians as a recruit. so i don't -- i think this is the answer. i mean, there are -- it's interesting with "the new york times," with the, you know, sean spicer's reaction to "the new york times," i think they decided -- white house decides they're going -- >> lean in. ic
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i want to ask you a question, mike. one of the defenses i'm hearing, there's an uptick in the ignorance defense. i get it on foreign policy, on the russian collusion. the case goes like this. he can't even collude with his own press office. what are the odds he was confident enough to collude with putin? >> that's a tough defense. that's a tough defense to take. i actually thinkpolitically m l. they need to hold the trump coalition -- >> you know saying it was all streategic was never the case. >> they need to give their supporters something to hold on to, give their supporters a villain, a foe, that's comey, give them something to say, something to repeat, to hold republicans in congress back. politically that's all they're trying to do right now is survive. once republicans start piling on, they could be in major trouble. what they put out today, legally there's a bigger issue. i think the people who will have the problems with this will not be the hardest core trump voters, but center right voters who didn't want to vote for hillary clinton, wanted a businessman, thought he would surround himself with good people. those are the people trump risks
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losing. people who wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt on russia, the more they see, the more they start to scratch their head. >> maria, i covered the democratic party of trump's coalition, the softest part of his coalition. they're very uncomfortable. they thought they were getting a guy that was different. when they see stories about possible corruption, it takes m makes them feel like, oh, god, we made the wrong choice. >> yesterday i was with a trump surrogate who was explaining kind of how trump supporters, viewers of another network, shall we say, are internetting and s interpreting and seeing the whole story. he said, look, this is the left and the liberals and all of the media being incredibly upset and unable to accept the fact that donald trump won and so all of you, he basically was like all of you, all, everybody, is coming down on the president, on this russia thing. there is no collusion. what i find interesting is how we as a country deal with the fact that there are these parallel universes. right? where we are having a different conversation and the national
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news networks, "the new york times," "washington post," and that there is a part of the united states of america that just says, no, just i don't believe it and this is -- >> true. >> -- completely -- it's a story we do not buy into it. it's like what can -- >> we don't have a common set of facts. >> is it going to be the "ap" we're going to agree on? what can we agree on? right now, the two parallels, nothing there. >> only hitting pause. we have another headline on the other side of this break. stay with us. it's time for the "your busine business" entrepreneur of the week. michael is a frustrated musician turned urban wine maker. he started city winery to put together all of his loves. it's a restaurant, a winery and a music venue. he's taken the leap expanding now to five cities. for more, watch "your business" weekends at 7:30 on msnbc. will your business be ready when growth presents itself? american express open cards can help you take on a new job,
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all right. more breaking news. who says nothing fun happens on fridays? the latest is from mcclatchy, reporting the trump/russia probe includes a possible cover-up. one of the correspondents whose biline is on the story, leslie clark, national correspondent for mcclatchy. she joins me by phone. what can you tell us? >> many members of congress we talked to today coming out of the briefing made it clear to us one of the branches that they're
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looking at is whether or not the administration tried to cover up the investigation. >> well, ari melber, legal expert, is on the line. i think he has a question for you on this. >> all right, leslie, just reading your story, your headline, "trump/russia probe includes possible cover-up congress is told." did several members of congress then confirm to you that rod rosenstein said that? or that that was their conclusion? >> that was their conclusion. that is what they came to think of given what he said and the questions that they asked him. >> you know, leslie, i noted yesterday that lindsey graham came out of yesterday's briefing with rod rosenstein and made this point that's in the second paragraph of your story that the investigation might be getting a reclassification from counterintelligence to criminal. is there anything more you can tell us about that? or what does your story detail about that? >> well, it mostly -- i don't know that on the criminal part of it, but the people that we talked to gave us the
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indications that they were trying to determine whether or not the administration was trying to cover up the first element of the investigation which is the interference of russia and whether members of the campaign worked with the russians. >> and this seems to confirm that it's always the cover-up that ensnares more people than the original crime and you speak to that. cover-ups have traditionally been a major part of investigations that have threatened previous administrations. articles of impeachment levied against richard nixon and bill clinton included allegations of obstruction of justice as they wf were suspected of trying to hit oa hide othatther wrongdoing." are you picking up that sentiment from your sources? >> that's the bigger part of it, what happens afterwards when people begin to assemble and disem bl stories. >> lesley clark, thank you for your reporting and getting on the phone with us. we appreciate it. jen palmieri, i keep coming to
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you because -- >> i to havedo have a certain s skills. >> what do you make of this? it's not just -- i'm not sure donald trump is too capable of covering up much of anything. he can't resist the impulse to live out loud. i wonder if this means there's someone on the white house staff in serious legal jeopardy. >> i think there probably is. here's what we know. we know the president had at least on three occasion s soug out the company of jim comey for the purposes of trying to -- >> winning him over. >> winning him over and trying to get him to back down on the investigation. so that seems to be an endeavoring to cover up or at least obstruct that investigation. and there are probably staff that in ways witting and not aided that. so it is -- but it's not -- sometimes people say, i remember roger stone last week said they should have an -- this would be great if they had a special counsel because then you put the investigation goes into a box. you knows, i understand this, we would use this in the different
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white houses to say, like, well, i can't answer your question about that investigation because there's a special counsel looking into it. but with this white house, the president can't resist talking about it in realtime and it's taking dangerous actions in realtime and that's what he's going to have mueller traveling alongside of him tracking and that's really dangerous. >> you and your merry boy band on "the circus" interviewed this president on multiple occasions. he's an insatiable consumer of news, coverage of himself. i wonder if you think being on this trip and sort of in this bubble might protect him from himself in some ways. >> well, highly possible. an electronic blackout maybe might help in this circus. what i'm curious about, i wanted to ask ari if he's still on the line. >> we still have ari, right? ari, you still there? >> yep. >> i was curious, as this progresses forward and the legal authorities question comey about the meeting and maybe inevitably question the president as well, then you have a he said/he said. fbi director versus the
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president. where does that ultimately land? >> let me add to the question, ari. if it's he said/he said but this he has notes from the meetings, does that strengthen one's case over the other? >> contemporaneous notes always help. fbi memos to file are even better because they generally get some deference, not automatic, but some deference because they're law enforcement memoranda. what is different than a traditional he said/she said is the justice department doesn't take the position that it should prosecute a president for even, shall we say, normal crimes. so the entire obstruction discussion, if the evidence continues to pile up, and boy, donald trump seems insistent on creating that public evidence in record, almost like someone with a legal death wish at this juncture given how much he talks about it and how explicitly. but however much he talks about it, it is not generally the doj purview to pursue that. that would be in history something that the congress
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looks at as part of its constitutional oversight function and we're not there yet. but the larger questions here that also come in the questions you were asking, nicolle, about a potential cover-up, is, you have the underlying counterintel question, what happened during the campaign, then you have questions about the transition period and financial questions. and then now you have this third layer in this layered cake about whether there are attempts to impede or obstruct. so the cover-up would be of the original crimes then keep in mind that could be separate from whether there's an obstruction issue. so, sooner or later, if there are more people involved in more things that are less than truthful, that are potentially duplicitous in conjunction with law enforcement inquiry, that makes it very hard for all of this to just go by the wayside. >> maria, let me bring you into this because it seems like we do get wrapped up in these news of the day, the drama that they create. but i want to just get back to the under -- how we got here. is that since the early stages of the campaign, and this is
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something in that the republicans who ran against him in the republican primary were critical of, your old boss chris christie was critical of trump's sort of posture when it came to russia. the platform, remove the language that was supposed to sort of protect russia's neighbors from russian efforts. where do you think we are in sort of u.s./russia relations after, you know, i think obama hadn't let -- president obama hadn't let sergey lavrov into the oval office in two years, he was back last week hugging and kissing with his press corps, not ours. what does this say about u.s./russia relations? >> i'm thinking about the normalization of the strangeness of this all. again, american journalists were not allowed into that meeting -- >> right. >> -- in the white house. we weren't even allowed. that should already be putting our hair on fire as journalists. i've been thinking a lot about -- >> he was calling comey a nut job and crazy. you can see why -- he wanted you to hear it. >> then you have -- i was out reporting yesterday, actually, about some of these issues and you start hearing people saying,
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you know, those leakers, well, they're actually the great patriots. right? we're actually hearing things that we wouldn't hear otherwise. i have a lot of questions about the normalization of this. about us as journalists and our role in how we're covering this. the fact that it's coming so fast and furious. but still, there's a real question about how we're accepting this as a moment of, like, well, we're having this normal kind of conversation. this stuff is not normal. >> right. >> what we're seeing. >> you only have 15 seconds. i want to ask you, is the republican party helping to normalize this bizarre new posture with the president. >> i think republicans initially were going to give the president the benefit of the doubt because president george w. bush, president obama, both came into office trying to say they wanted more positive relations with russia. i think as this goes on further especially with this cloud hanging overhead, it's harder and harder. >> getting a little weird. up next, our first report from the traveling white house press corps in saudi arabia when we come back. my business was built with passion... but i keep it growing by making every dollar count.
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welcome back, folks. nbc's kelly o'donnell has just landed in riyadh, saudi arabia. he know you flew over on the press charter so you got there ahead of the president so you could get that shot of the president walking down steps of air force one. one, when will you first see any members of the presidential package and what will be your first questions to them? >> good to be with you. we have some members of the press team who traveled with us.
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and then it is another ten hours or so before president trump and those who traveled on air force one which includes his senior staff, the first lady, and about a dozen journalists who are on that plane. they have hours to go. they of course have the world's best comes on that aircraft and he can know in communication with anyone involved with trying to prepare him for what's coming here. when he lands in saudi arabia, there is a whole separate agenda apart police the controversies that was intended to give him a real chance to turn the page on a global stage. but at this point, the key questions have to do with his continuing conversations about the comey investigation, comey personally, and the striking report about reaching inside the white house, a person of interest inside the investigation, described by reports as someone close to the president. when you really pair that back, a senior adviser was close to
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the president, narrows the list dramatically. there are new claims from the congressional side of say, any documents, any memorializing of the conversations the president had with russia's foreign minister and ambassador to the u.s., must be preserved. so congress wants to reach in. so for the president, there will not be many opportunities for to us and him any questions. there's no press conference scheduled. he has other agenda items here including meetings with leaders. the king, of course, always big speech about islam trying on reach out to the muslim world. this controversy will follow him. so it may put additional pressure on the journalists who will be in the pool close to the president, to try to shout questions. a different set of circumstances here. we've even had issues about being able to broadcast here. some disagreements those in a security detail here about our access to the roof where we had planned to deliver some coverage from. we're actually using a different space at the hotel now to give
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you the on the ground feel are riyadh. intense pressure on the president. the questions will persist. he has a separate agenda that he needs to try to get some successes. but the cloud will certainly follow this. the white house had homed this trip would be a chance to clear the air. not expecting there would be multiple controversial new developments coming just at the time the president was in the air while the group of us reporters, not only american journalists from around the world who want to cover this trip, were in the air on the plane. so it has been fast paced developments. we are hours away from seeing senior officials but there are some press staff here with us at the hotel that we're using in riyadh. you know what this is like. the pressure is intense. it is unscripted and the president has some time to think about how he will respond next. because his comments inside the oval office in those meetings, some of the other things that have happened, have brought more of this controversy on him. he has an opportunity to focus
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how he will address this. and that will be high stakes for sure. >> thank you so much for painting that picture for us. an incredibly high stakes trip for the president. ken, he know you've been covering just how expansive this stage could get. what do you know? >> that's right. and you were having an interesting chat with earlier guests about, is this a counter intelligence investigation or a criminal investigation? i think there's been some misconceptions. it has been both. it began with more of a counter intelligence focus looking at how the russians hacked and interfered in the election. and then looking at this question of whether any americans clueded. as the focus has expanded, it seems to have morphed more into a criminal investigation and that's what senators are telling us and that is what nbc is reporting and the "today" show, the use of grand jury subpoenas and the examination of financial
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transactions. what happens is when you have a sprawling fbi investigation looking at wealthy international business people, the fbi is not going on ignore other crimes they come upon. i'm going to be very careful how they say this. no one has been charged. but what we've seen so far is, for example, mike flynn failing to disclose half a million dollars paid to lobby on behalf of the government of turkey. that doesn't seem in collusion with russia but it seems other jeopardy. we know that mike flynn and paul manafort are involved. so it is a criminal investigation, also a counter intelligence investigation, nicole, and it will go on for some time. >> what do you make of the "washington post" headline the russia probe reaches current white house official as person of interest. >> as you can imagine, nbc news is furiously working to confirm
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report and we have not as of yet. i don't have any information yet. the rest of it tracks with the reporting we had about the nature of this probe, the grand jury subpoenas and paul manafort and mike flynn. in terms of of someone in the white house, we're still working on it. >> all right. mike mckinnon, we all covered a campaign that was, what jeb bush described, a chaos candidate. he was right west started talking about he and hillary could have some laughs at the bar. what are the more serious and dire consequences of thought chaos for our country, especially has the president, he represents all of us on a world stage. >> the dire consequences are the future of the country. >> are you worried about that? >> yes, i am. i was worried about it before there was an investigation. we have huge compelling critical dangerous complex issues that we're facing, arguably, more
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complex than ever in our history, at a time we have to confront it and we need a good administration better than ever. >> my reporting spigtss not just that he's distracted. there used to be a very small circle of people who could pull him out of a funk and that's no longer the case. what do you think are the risks to the republican party? >> i think at some point you look at the mid terms and you to look control the house and the senate. a few months ago, you would have said no problem at all. the way the ma'am looks, the candidates look, the republicans, maybe next year will start to look out for their own interests. that's the problem for the president. much more critical at some point. >> we keep talking about other shoes to drop. it looks leak the designer shoe warehouse. >> no way to even know what's
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next. >> do you think -- >> it won't go away. >> definitely. and i don't think it will go away. i'm concerned with the fact there are these two parallel universes and donald trump supporters are really seeing this as something that they don't even care about. >> they don't believe us. >> they don't believe what they're saying. i'm concerned about the stories, two immigrants died in an grand central camp in georgia. the numbers have increased with undocumented immigrants being detained and deported. all keenlds of stuff that's happening on a community level that we're not able to talk about. actual policy is having an impact on people's lives and we're busy talking about this. i'm very concerned. >> so crazy in downtown washington, northwest washington. joe biden said something not very generous about your old boss. you called him a bad candidate. do you think he might be the
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person -- >> why are you doing this in. >> we know had a he said. we know that he is the new version of unfiltheredand unplugged. >> they do love it about him. does the current political climate make a biden candidacy viable? as a statesman and someone who can bring democrats together? >> it is possible, although people are always much more enamored of the idea of joe biden as a candidate. then when he actually is a candidate -- >> i think that does happen as he is replaced with the mirror opposite. barack obama and donald trump. i'm be sure that joe biden -- >> who is it? >> tim cain. >> on a day like today. thank you all for joining us. that does it for this hour.
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i'm nicole wallace. "mtp daily" starts right now. >> if it's friday, the breaking news just won't stop. tonight, hot off the presses. a new round of reporting on what's going on behind closed doors at the white house. plus, members of congress are given new insight into bob mueller's investigation. >> there were questions well outside the russian scope. >> and america first goes global. >> he has sxmd done things which undermine the confidence that our allies have in us. >> how will the world receive president trump during his first foreign trip? this is "mtp daily" and it starts right now. >> good evening. i'm katy tur in for chuck todd. welcome to the unknown. we

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